Somber and neither here nor there, Many Rooms, the moniker of Houston-based singer/songwriter Briana Hunt, conceived a debut album documenting a mind slipping in and out of darkness, but never truly finding light. Sometimes, Hunt’s cries come closer into focus as if she’s weeping in the middle of an empty room. Other times, she can’t handle anything around her and hides in the closet or under the bed and just barely whimpers. No matter how hard she pushes through the melancholy, it still hangs onto her like a weight in her pocket, be it a brick or a boulder.
There Is A Presence Here opens in a short-lived state of contentment with “Nonbeing” as two guitars barely strum and a soft electric piano floats like the air on the stillest day between fall and winter. However, Hunt’s first whispers offer a pitch black yet honest consideration: “What if I die and nothing happens/Will my soul decay with me?” Horrifying? Yes. But this album isn’t about her. It’s about the depression that crashed over her while on her first tour. The presence of, you could say, a “nonbeing” that haunted her. “Will you meet me upon a mountain/Will you be buried with me?” We may decay in death, but so will our demons.
The rest of the album is an attempt to exist with this being and, like the happiest and most overproduced dance albums, the sadness and the lo-fi production do eventually reach a feeling of repetition. Hunt may be pouring her bleeding heart out in front of us, but the very presence of pain doesn’t fully flesh out a record. At least not a record that wants to be 10 songs long. The color red is a beautiful color and painting with only shades of red is a unique idea. But that doesn’t make for a masterpiece.
The first seven songs, aside from the noble yet cliched “Dear Heart,” show Hunt exploring her mental illness and existential dread with a catharsis and maturity beyond her 22 years. In particular, singles “Which is to Say, Everything” and “Hollow Body” hang in the air like thick smog and prove Hunt to be the immaculate conductor of atmosphere that she can be. It’s in the last three songs that this atmosphere turns into aimless fuzz. While the best of There Is A Presence Here tells a story, the last three songs feel like Hunt trying to reach a quota.
There Is A Presence Here proves to be a fitting title. There’s something profound and affecting somewhere within this debut album.